Man serving 400 years in jail freed as he’s found not guilty after 34 years
A Florida man who spent the past 34 years behind bars walked out of court in Fort Lauderdale a free man on Monday after he was exonerated.
Sidney Holmes, 57, was sentenced to 400 years in jail in 1988 following an armed robbery in the state’s Broward County. He was released this week after the state’s Conviction Review Unit (CRU), along with the Innocence Project of Florida, reinvestigated his conviction.
According to a release from Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor, Holmes was arrested on Oct. 6, 1988, convicted after a jury trial in April 1989 and sentenced the following month. He was convicted of being the driver for two unidentified men who robbed a man and woman at gunpoint outside a convenience store. The two unidentified men stole the male victim’s car.
Holmes contacted the CRU back in November 2020 claiming he was innocent of the crime, prompting the review of this case.
“There is no evidence tying Mr. Holmes to the robbery other than a flawed identification,” Arielle Demby Berger, the assistant state attorney in charge of the CRU, told reporters on Monday, according to the Miami Herald.
The identification of Holmes was likely a misidentification partly due to the photo and live lineup practices commonly used by law enforcement at the time, according to the CRU’s findings.
Pryor, the CRU and an independent review panel each independently concluded that the information they reviewed provided a “reasonable doubt” as to Holmes’s guilt, and that the State Attorney’s Office would not charge him today based on these facts.
Circuit Court Judge Edward Merrigan signed a release order for Holmes on Monday.
“I can’t put it into words,” Holmes told ABC affiliate WPLG following his release. “It’s overwhelming.”